“For those of you unfamiliar with how, until the 1990s, Ireland dealt with unmarried mothers and their children, here it is: the women were incarcerated in state-funded, church-run institutions called mother and baby homes or Magdalene asylums, where they worked to atone for their sins. Their children were taken from them.” A quote taken directly from today’s Guardian article reporting on the bodies of 796 children, between the ages of two days and nine years old, found in a disused sewage tank in Tuam, County Galway. The children died between 1925 and 1961 in a mother and baby home under the care of the Bon Secours nuns.
This mentality that unmarried or single mothers are worthless trash is a stigma raging strong today. In those days in Ireland, the fathers who impregnated these women (often young girls under the age of 16) went off and built lives with wives and kids, and never gave those mothers and babies another thought – a practice which is all too familiar in 2014.
The young mums who were brave enough to fight these double-standards took the ferry across to England to have abortions – just as described in the song Everyday by The Saw Doctors. Ireland was not ignorant of the abuse of women in these so-called “laundry homes”. What were these young, scared women to do? Their choices and their futures were bleak. It’s like people forgot that it takes two get a women pregnant. These women, some were young girls, who took the boat to London to have abortions were doing so to avoid a life of torture, abuse, and rape from priests. Many had been abused in their own homes.
These unmarried mothers had no choices and no freedoms, while the men and fathers had all the freedom from in the world. Again, I ask, what has really changed today as far as choices for single mothers?
Unless we put the right perspective on this emerging story – the media and the catholic church will tell us that these women and children who died on the Magdalene Asylums died as a result of their own sin. And more Catholic abuse will be swept under the carpet.
#YesAllWomen What happens to one woman affects all women. We are not a bunch of separate women living separate lives – we are womankind.
Here are the lyrics to the song above by fantastic Irish Band The Saw Doctors. Listen carefully.
Everyday she’s on the boat
When it pulls out from the quay
Far from small town eyes she floats
Across the Irish Sea
She’s the girl you know from down the road
She’s your one from out the other side
There’s a rumor she’s in trouble
She’s all mixed up inside
She’s wondering what they’re thinking
Do they know what’s going on?
She feels examined by their eyes
Is she right or is she wrong?
She’s got a number in her pocket
And one change of clothes
Her innocence is fading
Like last years winter snow’s
Light a candle in the window
So she can see it from the road
With all the loving in your heart
Welcome her back home
But what is the difference between the wall of lies, denial and secrecy the church constructed to protect its paedophile priests and a concrete slab over the bodies of 796 children neglected to death by nuns? Read more of the Guardian’s coverage here and here.
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Read about The Magdalene Sisters (Peter Mullan’s amazing 2002 film about this) on IMDB and on Wkipedia.